By James Alan Miller
August 28, 2006
Future T-Mobile-At-Home customers not interested in the SGH-T709 slider will have a well-established clamshell as an option.
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It’s all but certain T-Mobile will launch a dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi fixed-mobile convergence service based on the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) standard as soon as next month. Initial rumors placed Samsung’s SGH-T709 slider as the exclusive handset to be offered at launch. Not much of a choice for consumers.
Now comes a report that America’s fourth largest carrier will deliver a second phone as part of what’s to be called T-Mobile-At-Home: Nokia’s well-known 6136 clamshell. The 6136 was only the second UMA-enabled handset introduced — last February — after the SGH-T709 as a matter of fact.
The 6136 includes a 1.3 megapixel camera, a microSD memory card slot, and a stereo FM radio with Visual Radio support. Its screen handles 262,000 colors. The phone specs out to get about 5 hours of talk as a cell phone and 5.5 hours in Wi-Fi mode. Standby in Wi-Fi is only 82 hours, while it’s 280 hours for cellular.Both the 6136 and SGH-T709 automatically detect the fastest and most cost-effective network available, cellular or Wi-Fi, at home or on the road. When a user with a UMA-enabled handset enters a WLAN, for example, the phone switches his call from cellular to a Voice over IP connection.
The 6136 was one of the handsets, along with the N80 smartphone, used in Nokia’s in-truck — a eighteen wheeler called the Mobile Solutions Experience Center — demonstration of dual-mode technology at CTIA in April. The Symbian S60-based N80 represented the high-end and the 6136 the mass market.
A Nokia technician handed me one of the phones with both connected to each other through a GSM call. The phone in his hand seamlessly switched over from a GSM to Wi-Fi as he walked from one side of the truck to the other and back, without my noticing any change in connection quality.
A month ago Nokia took UMA dual-mode out of the lab when it started conducting a two-month trial in its own backyard, in the Finnish city of Oulu near the polar circle. The company gave fifty families each its own 6136 Wi-Fi enabled handset, with the point of seeing how UMA stands up under real life surroundings and conditions. Oulu has over 300 hotspots.
Along with the dual-mode handsets, Nokia provides network operators with the UMA Network Controller that links their broadband and GSM networks together.
T-Mobile’s initial focus for its new fixed/mobile convergence service is home users, who can make cellular calls when beyond the home or VoWi-Fi when they return while retaining their same phone number for a flat fee of that is said to be about $5 per month.
Later on, we expect T-Mobile will leverage its extensive hotspot portfolio to deliver dual-mode outside custom’s houses, especially since it has yet to roll out high speed cellular services like its competitors Cingular, Verizon, and Sprint. This would most likely focus on enabling data-centric content services.
As reported last week, the two routers in the T-Mobile UMA trial include a Linksys and a D-Link model. Just about the only difference between these and your everyday 802.11b/g router is the addition of button to ease the connection of a Wi-Fi enabled phone, the T709 and 6136, in the home without inputting a WEP or WPA security key.
Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago appear to be early on the list of cities to get T-Mobile’s upcoming dual-mode offering.